10 Sep 2023 | Professional golf |

Lee leads, Quayle trails by one

by Tony Webeck

Minjee Lee leads Kroger Queen City Championship by two
A bogey-free 7-under 65 has moved Minjee Lee two strokes clear at the LPGA Kroger Queen City Championship. Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Australian Minjee Lee will spend Sunday trying to stay one step ahead after moving out to a two-stroke lead at the Kroger Queen City Championship in Cincinnati.

Looking to claim the ninth LPGA Tour title of her career and her first since the US Women’s Open last June, Lee set the tone early at Kenwood Country Club.

Tied for seventh going into Round 3, birdies at each of her opening three holes moved Lee into a prominent position on the leaderboard.

Crucial par saves saw the 27-year-old turn in 3-under, four further birdies on the back nine for a bogey-free 7-under 65 moving her two clear at 15-under through 54 holes.

England’s Charley Hull (68) and Chinese Taipei’s Peiyun Chien (73) are Lee’s nearest challengers but the West Australian remains determined to hold them at bay.

“You always kind of have that thought that someone is going to chase you, I guess, so you’re always trying to be one step ahead,” Lee said of her Round 4 mentality.

“It really depends on what situation you’re in, but if you have the lead, you’re just always trying to be one step ahead.”

Admitting that she struggled with the expectations of backing up her phenomenal 2022 season, Lee has dropped from No.2 to No.13 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking.

Her playoff defeat to Jin Young Ko at the Mizuho Americas Open is one of only two top-10 finishes this season, patience with the putter now transferring into confidence on the greens.

“It’s just really belief,” Lee said.

“Once you kind of have a couple events where you’re not putting as well, you probably lose a little bit of that confidence and that belief.

“I’ve been working really hard on getting the confidence back, and it’s just a process.

“You can’t really rush it, things like that. I’m just taking it step by step and just trying to put a great stroke on every single putt I hit.

“That’s all I can do.”

Fellow Australian Anthony Quayle will start the final round of the Shinhan Donghae Open one back instead of one in front following a costly double-bogey on the final hole on Saturday.

Seeking his first Japan Golf Tour title in a tournament co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and Korean PGA Tour, Quayle moved into the outright lead with a birdie at the par-4 11th.

He would maintain that advantage all the way up until the par-5 18th hole where – after finding the front bunker with his third shot – three-putted for a double-bogey to sit one back of Canada’s Richard T. Lee (67) and South Korean Guntaek Koh (66) and in a share of third place with overnight leader Wooyoung Cho (71) and Ok Tae Hoon (67).

The 2021 Queensland PGA champion, Quayle got off to a strong start at Sky72 Golf and Resort with birdies at his opening two holes. He was tied for the lead with Cho after nine holes when he reached the turn in 31.

Having played the 18th hole in 3-over the first three rounds, the 29-year-old knows he needs to make amends to complete the biggest win of his career to date.

“I didn’t put a foot wrong until the last,” Quayle said.

“Me and the last hole haven’t got on to well so far. Hopefully if it comes down to it, it will be a bit more friendly (on Sunday).

“Everything feels really good. I feel like I have played quite solid. I have holed a couple I probably shouldn’t have, and I have missed a couple I feel like I should have made.

“I feel like the score is reflective of how I played. I have a chance on a Sunday, which is nice.”

Fellow Aussies Zach Murray and Travis Smyth are also well positioned for a prominent finish.

Murray had five birdies in six holes to close out his front nine in a round of 4-under 68 while Smyth had an eagle and five birdies in his 5-under 67, the pair tied for 12th at 10-under and five strokes off the lead.

Minjee’s brother, Min Woo Lee, is in a share of 10th going into the final round of the Horizon Irish Open on the DP World Tour, four back of German Hurly Long.

Kiwi Ryan Fox matched Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel and Nick Machem for round of the day in Round 3, his bogey-free 66 elevating Fox to a tie for fourth and three shots off Long’s 13-under total through 54 holes.

A second round of 2-under 70 saw West Australian Kirsten Rudgeley maintain her spot inside the top 10 at the Ladies European Tour’s Big Green Open in The Netherlands.

Tied for fourth at last week’s KPMG Women’s Irish Open, Rudgeley went out in 2-under on Saturday before trading a bogey at the par-4 11th with a birdie at the par-4 17th for an even par back nine.

Gold Coast’s Amy Walsh fired a brilliant 5-under 67 to finish in a tie for fifth at the Rose Ladies Open on the LET Access Series, fellow Aussie Kelsey Bennett (70) one shot further back in a tie for seventh.

Despite a round of 2-under 70, Robyn Choi lost ground at the Epson Tour’s Black Desert Resort Championship.

Tied for third through two rounds, Choi fell to 13th on the leaderboard and will start the final round five strokes back of Nataliya Guseva (65, 18-under).

Five birdies in six holes around the turn provided the foundation to Cassie Porter’s 6-under 66, the Queenslander moving into a tie for 23rd with one round to play.

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